Posted by: steveonfilm | February 7, 2011


Every writer is different. For some people entire worlds can explode into their brains at a moment’s notice. For others a simple line of dialog can blossom into an entire drama. Every brain works differently. And each writer has their own method for shaping thier ideas.

When a screenplay is finished there is some sort of underlying structure that links the first and last page. Whether the writer sat down and “winged it” or they toiled for hours on intricate details and the ins and outs of relationships before typing “FADE IN,” some underlying framework exists for the screenplay in one way, shape, or form.

I’ve found in my own work that the more time I spend in an outline the stronger my end product. That doesn’t mean that is the case for every writer, that just means it’s the case for me. I find that I enjoy the actual screenwriting process better when I’ve put in time with a well developed outline. I like to work out all the story kinks first. Keep track of where all the main plot points will fall. Make sure all of my set ups have payoffs. I feel like I’m putting up the framework for a house. And when I’m done all that’s needed is drywall and some paint.

I get pretty detailed in my outlines. Even to the point where I’ve got tidbits of dialog that may have popped into my head. This is one of the reasons why I can move through the screenwriting process pretty quickly. I do all of the heavy lifting in my outlines. Some people might want a less rigid structure, let things fly on the page, but this is what I’ve found works for me.

Ultimately, what you need to figure out as a writer is what you need your outline to be. It should serve as both a roadmap and the structure for your screenplay. Every writer needs something different from their outline, and no two outlines will be the same, but the only way to figure this kind of stuff out is with experimentation. Don’t compare yourself to another writer, but don’t be scared to see what might work for them and give it a whirl. Experimentation is your friend in this manner.

The best painters in the world didn’t just pick up a brush and turn out masterpieces. They experimented, and honed their craft little by little, your writing isn’t any different.

I’ll be posting more on outlining this week… think of it as a theme. I’ll have some samples up as well. Hopefully I can help out a few people out there. And maybe some people will have some suggestions that will help me.

Until next time, keep writing!


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